By: cars.co.za (24/11/2022) Proton X70 (2022) Review
The Proton X70 is one of two models that have spearheaded the (now Chinese-owned) Malaysian brand’s return to South Africa. Backed by Geely, the new Protons compete in the hotly contested crossover/SUV space. We get behind the ‘wheel of the larger (of the two) X70 in entry-level 1.5 Standard guise.
We like: Exceptional ride quality and comfort, punchy powertrain, refinement
We don’t like: Dated cabin, no modern connectivity, fussy ergonomics and infotainment-system user experience
- Model: Proton X70 1.5 Standard
- Price: R529 900 (November 2022)
- Engine: 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbopetrol
- Power/Torque: 130 kW and 255 Nm
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
- Fuel consumption: 7.8 L/100 km
- 0-100 kph: 9.8 seconds
- Luggage capacity: 515 litres
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Where does the new Proton X70 fit in?The X70 is one of two models in the new Proton line-up.
Do you remember Proton? Before it departed the local market in 2015, the brand offered hatchbacks, such as the Gen2, Savvy and Satria Neo (with a ‘handling by Lotus’ sticker), as well as the Arena small bakkie in South Africa. Speaking of Lotus, Proton owned the British marque until 2017, when both were acquired by Geely, which also has Volvo in its portfolio.
The numerous brands that are under Geely’s control share many technologies; that way, the Chinese automotive giant doesn’t need to develop brand-specific platforms and engines – at great cost – and it can bring models with high component commonality to market a lot faster.
Earlier this year, Proton returned to the Republic with the X50 and X70. While we’re well acquainted with the X50 – watch the video review – this is our first encounter with its bigger sibling, the X70. There are 4 derivatives (in 3 trim levels) and all of them are powered by a 3-cylinder turbopetrol engine. The Executive is also available in all-wheel-drive guise.
If you’re shopping for a new medium SUV at around the R500k mark, you are truly spoilt for choice. The X70 goes up against models such as the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro, Haval h4, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Peugeot 3008, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan. The entry point to the range – the 1.5 Standard – is the subject of this review.
Visit our Buyer’s Guide to see which is the best SUV for youProton X70 The X70’s exterior styling is pretty generic, but that can be said of many medium SUVs in the market.
How the X70 fares in terms of…
Performance and economy
One of the advantages of being part of the Geely family is that Proton gets its powertrains from Volvo. The X70’s 1.5-litre turbopetrol motor produces 130 kW/255 Nm and is paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Those peak outputs seem quite sufficient, but how well does the 1.5 Standard perform in reality? According to our test equipment, the test unit accelerated from 0 to 100 kph in 9.56 sec, which was fractionally quicker than Proton’s claimed figure. Better yet, the front-wheel-driven X70 maintained impressive tractionThe X70 is powered by a Volvo-sourced 3-cylinder engine.
Unlike most 3-cylinder motors, which tend to vibrate more than their 4-cylinder counterparts, the Proton’s engine is impressively refined, although it still emits that characteristic 3-pot thrum. The sound is surprisingly pleasant/purposeful… as if the engine’s purring merrily.
The 7-speed dual-clutch (automatic) transmission is well-calibrated to the performance characteristics of the engine and delivers quick, but smooth, gearshifts. As a result, the X70’s in-gear acceleration is punchy, which is a boon when overtaking vehicles at freeway speeds.The dual-clutch automatic transmission shifts smoothly and is well-calibrated to the engine’s performance characteristics.
The downside to that peppiness is poor fuel economy. The X70 is no lightweight (it weighs just over 1 600 kg), so its 1.5-litre engine must work hard to propel that heft at a reasonable pace. Proton claims the X70 will, on average, consume 7.8 L/100 km, but even when we adopted a conservative driving style, we couldn’t achieve better than 9.8 L/100 km (indicated).Ride and handling
The great thing about driving a product of an all-new brand (or, in Proton’s case, one that is lightyears removed from the brand we knew) is that you don’t have any preconceived notions about the model. When we review a new product from an established player in the market, we tend to have (usually high) expectations of that vehicle. This case was different – we had no idea what to expect. Did we, for example, expect the X70 to ride exceptionally well? No!
High-profile tyres contribute to the Proton’s exceptional ride quality.
But somehow, the Proton “came out swinging” and delivered a superbly comfortable ride quality. Even when we traversed particularly poorly maintained roads, the Malaysian newcomer’s suspension was pliant – not once did it jolt and jar over road imperfections.
It’s great to see that Proton has prioritised on-road comfort and not tried to imbue the X70 with a modicum of sportiness (as if to suggest that the model has dynamic handling ability, which is certainly not expected of a family car); it does help that the 17-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in high-profile tyres. The cabin is well insulated from road noise too – we got the impression that the Proton would provide particularly relaxed transport on long(er) trips.
The excellent ride quality does come at the cost of some on-road poise and sharpness when cornering. The X7’s steering is set up for comfort and neither accurate nor very direct, but we’re not going to complain about that – you rarely get ride quality and crisp handling in abundance. There is a sporty steering mode, which adds some artificial heft to the ‘wheel.Features, tech and safety features The infotainment system is not compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The 1.5 Standard is the entry-level X70 derivative, but it still comes (fairly) well-equipped. Standard features include, but are not limited to, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise- and audio control buttons, fabric seats, LED foglamps, auto lights, Eco mode, keyless access with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 6-speaker audio, USB connectivity, rear parking sensors, as well as a reverse-view camera.
There are a few drawbacks. While the Proton is equipped with a digital instrument panel, its presentation and display resolution feel outdated compared with those of its rivals. The central infotainment system is also not the most modern of units either… It offers Bluetooth connectivity but does not support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus you won’t be able to access convenient apps such as Maps, Waze and full streaming service functionality.A USB charging port is located inside the centre armrest.
As far as safety features are concerned, the 1.5 Standard comes with 6 airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control and, for those who venture up and down steep roads, hill-hold assist and hill-descent control. Other derivatives in the X70 range, however, feature semi-autonomous driving technology, such as emergency city braking.Packaging and Practicality
Proton X70 cabin The cabin design looks dated, but it feels solidly made.
The Proton X70’s cabin is a roomy and pleasant space to occupy; the seats are comfortable and supportive. However, the interior does feel a little dated. Perhaps it was a sign that the test unit’s internal clock had not been set correctly – it indicated April 2016. If we reviewed the X70 in 2016, the cabin would be perfectly contemporary, but throughout the past few years, big strides have been made in terms of cabin quality and tech at this price point.
The cabin materials feel reasonably premium, but if you look closely, you’re likely to spot a few cheap-looking elements, such as the surrounds of the infotainment screen. The system’s menu is not presented particularly clearly – we struggled to see its buttons in bright sunlight.
Proton X70 seats Rear legroom is acceptable, but the load-bay capacity is on the smaller side.
What’s more, the dashboard’s functionality requires a careful combination of button presses to activate (before you can use the audio volume’s scrolling wheel to sift between options). It’s a strangely clunky setup, because most OEMs utilise indicator- and wiper stalk buttons, or even a dedicated button on the steering wheel, to provide users access to such functions.
Again, the X70’s cabin is acceptably roomy. The entry-level derivative provides rear occupants with good head- and legroom, a pair of USB ports (for charging devices, as well as dedicated ventilation outlets. The load-bay capacity is rated at 515 litres, which puts the Malaysian offering towards the back of the proverbial grid when it comes to practicality.
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Proton X70 Price and After-sales support
The Proton X70 1.5 Standard costs R529 900 and the price includes a 5-year/unlimited km warranty, 5-year/80 000 km service plan, as well as 5 years’ roadside assistance.
Proton X70 rear The great ride quality and punchy powertrain are let down by a dated and quirky cabin.
The Proton X70 makes a good case for itself, particularly if you’re looking for a family car that delivers ride quality and occupant comfort in abundance. The model’s turbopetrol engine is not lethargic (as some entry-level medium SUVs’ motors are) – it’s responsive and punchy (if somewhat thirsty) and mated with a snappy transmission. While we’ve only sampled the bottom-of-the-range version, its standard spec list is quite long and besides, if you want additional features, other X70 derivatives feature more comfort, features and safety tech.
Should you buy one? Given how rapidly the segment has evolved in a short space of time, we can’t recommend a Proton X70 over the brand-new and excellent Kia Sportage or the highly lauded Haval h4, both of which offer more space and performance for a similar price.
Proton SA has confirmed that there’s a new model coming in early 2023, but did not divulge further details. It could potentially be a fresh iteration of the X70, or something entirely different…